Keep Singapore Clean campaign

Singapore Infopedia

by Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia, Lim, Tin Seng


The Keep Singapore Clean campaign was one of Singapore’s first national campaigns as an independent nation. Launched on 1 October 1968 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the month-long campaign aimed to make Singapore the cleanest and greenest city in the region by addressing the problem of inconsiderate littering. The campaign reached out to every stratum of society and sought to instil in Singaporeans the importance of keeping public places clean. It was part of a larger public cleaning plan that included changes in public-health laws, relocation and licensing of itinerant hawkers, development of proper sewage systems, and disease control. The government believed that improved environmental conditions would not only enhance the quality of life for Singaporeans and cultivate national pride, but also attract foreign investors and tourists to Singapore.1

Prior to 1968, Singapore had conducted a number of similar campaigns. One of the earliest was the Keep Your City Clean campaign, an anti-littering initiative organised by the City Council in 1958. The following year, the government launched Gerakkan Pembersehan Bandar Raya Singapura, meaning “movement to clean the city of Singapore” in Malay. In his speech at the campaign’s launch on 23 November 1959, Lee said that he wanted to use the campaign as a starting point for Singapore to become one of the cleanest and healthiest cities in Asia.2

In the subsequent years leading up to the launch of the Keep Singapore Clean campaign, the government continued to conduct campaigns regularly to instil a sense of responsibility in individuals to keep Singapore clean and to encourage them to bin their rubbish.3

Inaugural edition of Keep Singapore Clean campaign
In August 1968, the government announced that a national campaign committee had been formed to run the Keep Singapore Clean campaign to be held in October that year. Headed by then Health Minister Chua Sian Chin, the committee comprised representatives from various government agencies such as the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture, Public Works Department and Jurong Town Corporation, as well as non-government organisations like employers’ and employees’ associations.4

The campaign opened at the Singapore Conference Hall with much fanfare. Over 1,500 community leaders attended the event. Explaining the rationale of the campaign in his opening speech on 1 October 1968, Lee stated that cleaner communities would lead to a more pleasant life and keep morale high and sickness rate low, thus creating the necessary social conditions for higher economic growth through industry and tourism. Lee noted that if Singaporeans wanted to keep their communities clean, they had to raise their personal and public standards of hygiene. He urged Singaporeans to be more conscious and thoughtful about their actions, but added that the government would not hesitate to impose penalties on litterbugs if needed.5

Campaign activities
During campaign period, mass media – the press, radio and television – was used extensively for publicity. Posters and banners in Singapore’s four official languages (English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil) were displayed in public places such as shops, restaurants, offices, factories, community centres, bus shelters and public notice boards. Mini-posters, stick-up strips, leaflets, pamphlets and car-bumper stickers were also distributed. Besides having postal items and cinema tickets bearing stamps with the campaign slogan, letters and bills in government correspondence were also rubber-stamped with the slogan “Keep Singapore Clean”.6

In addition to the distribution of collaterals, various public education activities were organised. These included talks and lectures by health officials, inspections and spot checks by government officials, as well as house visits, rallies, exhibitions and estate cleaning exercises by grassroots organisations. Competitions for the cleanest offices, shops, restaurants, markets, factories, government buildings, schools and public vehicles were also conducted. The results of these competitions were announced publicly, highlighting both the cleanest and the dirtiest. Film clips and photographs of dirty premises or people caught in the act of littering were also shown in the mass media.7

Besides the use of social pressure, the Keep Singapore Clean campaign marked the first time that fines were used as a way to control social behaviour. The police, special constabulary and public health inspectorate sent officers on patrol to advise members of the public against littering. Those who were caught littering were warned of the penalties during the campaign; once the campaign ended, first-time litter-bugs were fined up to S$500, while repeat offenders were fined up to S$2,000.8

To ensure that good habits were cultivated from a young age, children were a special target group of the campaign. Teachers and other officials were roped in to remind students not to litter.

Clean campaigns through the years
As the inaugural Keep Singapore Clean campaign had been deemed a success, the programme continued yearly. The government also introduced various environmental campaigns to supplement the main campaign.In the 1970s, for instance, there were campaigns such as Tree Planting, Clean Water, Use Your Hands, Keep Singapore Pollution Free and Keep Your Factory Clean. In the following decade, there were others like Keep the Toilets Clean, Please Keep My Park Clean, and Keep Our Buses and Interchanges Clean.10

In 1990, the Keep Singapore Clean campaign was merged with the Garden City campaign to form the Clean and Green Week. The new annual programme adopted a more holistic approach in generating greater community awareness and participation in caring for the environment.11

Selected clean campaigns of the past
1958: Keep Your City Clean12
1959: Gerakkan Pembersehan Bandar Raya Singapura13
1960: Operation Clean-up14
1961: Anti-cholera campaign15
1963: Keep Our State Clean16
1964: Help Keep Our City Clean17
1966: Keep Your Beach Clean18
1967: Big Sweep19
1968: Keep Singapore Clean20
1969: Keep Singapore Clean and Mosquito Free21
1970: Keep Singapore Clean and Pollution Free22
1971: Tree Planting campaign23
1973: Keep Our Water Clean24
1978: Use Your Hands25
1979: Keep Your Factory Clean26
1983: Keep the Toilet Clean27
1984: Please Keep My Park Clean28
1988: Singapore is Our Home – Let’s Keep It Clean and Beautiful29
1988: Keep Our Buses and Interchanges Clean30


Joshua Chia Yeong Jia and Lim Tin Seng

1. Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Singapore – My Clean & Green Home (Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, 1997), 63 (From BookSG); Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Towards a Clean and Healthy Environment (Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, 1973), 1, 3, 7, 18; Susan Long, “Welcome to Campaign Country,” Straits Times, 25 May 2003, 27; “The Public Must Co-Operate,” Straits Times, 1 October 1968, 10; Ginnie Teo, “Dirty Pockets Still Exist,” Straits Times, 11 May 2003, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

2. “2,000 Tour City With Anti-Litter Leaflets,” Singapore Free Press, 4 October 1958, 7; Long, “Welcome to Campaign Country”; “Premier Leads Mass Drive To Clean City,” Straits Times, 24 November 1959, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Towards a Clean and Healthy Environment, 58; “Singapore Launches 3-Month Clean-Up Drive,” Straits Times, 24 December 1963, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Singapore. Ministry of Health, “Keep Singapore Clean’ Campagin, 1st to 31st October 1968,” 23 August 1968, press release (From National Archives of Singapore document no. NA 1249); Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Towards a Clean and Healthy Environment, 3; “The Public Must Co-Operate.”
5. “The Public Must Co-Operate”; Lee Kuan Yew, “The ‘Keep Singapore Clean’ Campaign,” 1 October 1968, press release. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. lky19681001)
6. “The Public Must Co-Operate”; Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Towards a Clean and Healthy Environment, 3; Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Singapore – My Clean & Green Home, 63.
7. Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Towards a Clean and Healthy Environment, 5, 15; Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Singapore – My Clean & Green Home, 63; “The Public Must Co-Operate.”
8. Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Towards a Clean and Healthy Environment, 5, 15–16, 21; Dominic Nathan, “New Approach To Keep S’pore Litter-Free,” Straits Times, 9 July 1995, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Towards a Clean and Healthy Environment, 15; Nathan, “New Approach To Keep S’pore Litter-Free”; Teo, “Dirty Pockets Still Exist”; Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Singapore – My Clean & Green Home, 63.
10. “Dr. Goh To Launch Tree Plant Day Today,” Straits Times, 7 November 1971, 7; “Prime Minister To Open Campaign,” Straits Times, 1 October 1971, 19; “It Means More Than Annual Clean-Up,” Straits Times, 12 June 1978,  8; “Manufacturers Call for ‘Keep Clean’ Drive at Each Factory,” Straits Times, 19 March 1979, 8; “Keep the Toilets Clean Campaign Launched,” Straits Times, 2 July 1983, 14; “‘Birds’ To Keep Park Clean,” Straits Times, 16 April 1984, 10; “SBS Begins Keep-Clean Drive Today,” Straits Times, 14 March 1988, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Goh Chok Tong, “The Launching of ‘Clean and Green Week… Green for Life,” speech, Esplanade Park, 4 November 1990, transcript, Ministry of Information; “Greening of S’poreans Campaign to Start in Nov,” Straits Times, 25 October 1990, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “2,000 Tour City With Anti-Litter Leaflets.”
13. “Premier Leads Mass Drive To Clean City.”
14. “Minister Leads ‘Big Sweep’ in Housing Estate,” Straits Times, 7 November 1960, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “‘Keep Clean’ Call to Hawkers,” Singapore Free Press, 18 September 1961, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Singapore Launches 3-Month Clean-Up Drive,” Straits Times, 24 December 1963, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “Minister Opens Big Drive To Clean Up City,” Straits Times, 2 January 1964, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
18. “Keep Beaches Clean to Impress Tourists: Sim,” Straits Times, 21 March 1966, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
19. “MPs Lead 1,000 in ‘Keep Clean’ Campaign,” Sunday Times, 30 July 1967, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Towards a Clean and Healthy Environment, 4; Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Singapore – My Clean & Green Home, 22.
21. “Next Campaign: Keep Singapore Free of Mosquitoes,” Straits Times, 15 June 1969, 9 (From NewspaperSG); Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Towards a Clean and Healthy Environment, 11. 32.
22. “Anti-Pollution Drive Tomorrow,” Straits Times, 13 October 1970, 2 (From NewspaperSG); Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Towards a Clean and Healthy Environment, 11; Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Singapore – My Clean & Green Home, 63.
23. “Dr. Goh To Launch Tree Plant Day Today.”
24. “Minister Opens Keep Water Clean Campaign,” Straits Times, 28 June 1973, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
25. “It Means More Than Annual Clean-Up.”
26. “Manufacturers Call for ‘Keep Clean’ Drive at Each Factory.”
27. “Keep the Toilets Clean Campaign Launched.”
28. “‘Birds’ To Keep Park Clean,”
29. Nathan, “New Approach To Keep S’pore Litter-Free”; Singapore. Ministry of Environment, Singapore – My Clean & Green Home, 65.
30. “SBS Begins Keep-Clean Drive Today,” Straits Times, 14 March 1988, 15. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at 2012 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.




























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